A bamboo that is not a bamboo

Yes, I want to spend this week talking about that ever-popular plant that we see more and more of this time of year. But before I begin, I want to give a big “thank you” to a whole group of people who made my summer most pleasant. I am talking about that hardy group of 20 or 30 people who, for the last five months, rain or shine, hot or cold, have managed to be at our own farmers market in the Curley’s parking lot from 7 a.m. until 2 p.m. every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. The produce, most locally grown, has been fresh, crisp and fantastic. But the market is more than the produce. It is friendly place where you can chat and meet friends and where when you ask a question or for a recipe, these folks can be very helpful. So, marketeers, thanks for a great season. Have a wonderful winter. You will see me on the first Tuesday in June.

Let’s talk about luck bamboo. It seems to be everywhere, mostly in groceries and home improvement stores, and garden centers. I’m sure that you will recognize it from the adjacent picture. First, let’s get one thing straight: It is not a member of thebamboo family of plants; it just looks like a bamboo plant. This plant is a member of the very large family of plants, the dracenas. Its botanical name is Dracena sanderiana. Okay, enough of the Latin.

When you purchase this plant, it will sometimes come in a gift vase, full of water with gravel at the bottom to give it stability. Most often, though, you will select the number of stems that you want from a container holding many stems of various sizes and shapes. They will be wrapped, and you will be on your way. So when you get home, you will need to select a proper vase for your new plants. There are a number of ways to go: You can fill a shallow vase 4 to 5 inches deep and, perhaps 6 inches across, with someone holding the plants in place, fill it with gravel to about an inch from the top. They will stand where you set them, especially if they’re well-rooted. Recently, I saw a group of several plants, perhaps 12 to 15 inches tall in a tall cylinder vase, one about 20 inches tall and perhaps 6 across. A base of black marbles, 4 or 5 inches of them, made for a stunning and exotic display. For the best success, I would suggest using bottled or rain water. Really, it does not take a lot — a 25-cent bottle will usually be enough, even when you change it every couple of weeks. The plant will love you for it. Every couple of months, when you change the water, add some water-soluble fertilizer at about 1/10 of the suggested strength.

And, yes, they can be planted in a pot full of soil, provided that the soil is light and airy and that there is a drainage hole at the bottom. While this plant thrives in water, it does not like to be in soggy soil. It will rot and die. The plant likes good light, but hates sitting in direct sunlight, and the leaves turn yellow and die. When leaves do go, gently remove them, exposing a node. With luck, the plant will reward you by throwing off a branch from each. Although not fussy plants, they do require a certain amount of care.

Questions?

• “Why was the plant so named?” According to feng shui, the lucky bamboo plant attracts positive energy that is supposed to bring good health, peace, happiness, prosperity and longevity, as well as good luck into the home that has this plant.

• “My white roots have turned black and brown. What shall I do?” Cut the stem 3 or 4 inches above the water line and place it in a fresh vase with bottled water, and it will most probably make new roots within a couple of months. Be sure to change the water regularly.

Next week, the meanings attached to lucky bamboo and propagation tips.

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